Cal kicked off the 2011 season with its first practice of training camp tonight at Witter Rugby Field. The first piece of good news is the turf appears to be in pretty good shape. As we all know, it was a mess when it was first installed and the Bears weren’t able to practice there during the spring. All appears to be well now.
Only a couple of no-shows. Tight end Jarrett Sparks is academically ineligible and isn’t likely to return to the team. Incoming freshman DB Jordan Morgan has decided to grayshirt as he recovers from an ankle injury. He will enroll at Cal in January, much like linebacker Cecil Whiteside did after last season.
On the health front, linebacker Nick Forbes was in a red jersey. He is still recovering from offseason ankle surgery (from an injury he sustained in the spring). He should be out another couple weeks. Tight end Spencer Ladner is still out as he recovers from his knee injury in the spring, but he is expected back in about a week.
Offensive tackle Mitchell Schwartz suffered a slight hamstring twinge early in practice and was shut down. Wide receiver Kaelin Clay tweaked his knee about midway through practice, but the severity is not know yet. He was to be further examined. That could be some early bad news if it is anything significant because Clay is a leading candidate to become Cal’s No. 3 receiver this season.
The first day of camp is the first chance to get a look at the new players, and I was most anxious to see incoming running back Brendan Bigelow. Granted, the team was just wearing helmets and not doing as much as they will later in camp, but considering the heralded recruit is coming off two ACL injuries to his right knee, it was extremely significant to see how he was moving.
Bigelow appears to be fine. He didn’t do a whole lot of running during practice, because the team didn’t. But when he moved, he looked fine. Jeff Tedford said Bigelow looked 100 percent. Bigelow himself said he’s felt 100 percent ever since he arrived on campus for Summer Bridge at the end of June. He even said he feels faster than he did before the first knee injury.
Junior running back Covaughn DeBoskie-Johnson appears to have lost the weight he wanted since spring ball. It was probably about 10-15 pounds. Tedford said he weighs about 211. “He should be able to perform better given that his weight is down,” Tedford said.
The media was allowed to watch all of practice today, but unfortunately it wasn’t an ideal arrangement. We sat behind one of the end zones and the defense was on the other side of the field. Plus, oftentimes during drills players formed lines going across the field so much of the time we were trying to see what was going on in between players’ bodies. That being said, there were still times we could observe other drills and get a taste of what was going on.
The quarterbacks didn’t do much today. Tedford admitted they were rusty, expected for the first day. He said Zach Maynard “threw the ball with authority and did a nice job.” I watched Kyle Boehm make a few throws and he appeared to have a strong arm and fairly accurate. But these were simple pitch-and-catch drills with no defense, so really hard to make an evaluation.
New tight end Richard Rodgers looks to have a good combination of size and athleticism, and maybe too much size. Tedford said he’s a little overweight.
When asked if any of the new players stood out today, albeit during a simple helmets-only practice , Tedford singled out defensive end Brennan Scarlett. ”Brennan Scarlett really stood out as being a guy who looks like he’s physically ready to play,” Tedford said.
Cal is back at it tomorrow afternoon with another helmets-only practice.